Kurt Helin

Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards 2015 - Arrivals

Klay Thompson occasionally hits skate park with Ryan Sheckler

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If you’re reading this blog, you know who Klay Thompson is.

You may also know who Ryan Sheckler is — one of the biggest names in professional skateboarding, star of MTV’s “Life of Ryan,” and Dew Tour stud.

Turns out, they’re buds from growing up around each other in Orange County, CA. Thompson was hanging with Sheckler at the tour recently and they did this interview together. I can now picture Thompson and Steve Kerr having a long talk about skateboards during training camp.

John Wall’s Wizards, Anthony Davis’ Pelicans both having player-run mini-camps this week

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This time of the summer, most NBA players are hitting the gym, working on their conditioning and games. Like all professional sports, training camp isn’t for getting guys in shape anymore, they are expected to hit the ground running.

Some teams are taking it further — the players have organized team workouts.

Two of those are happening this week in Los Angeles — the stars of the Washington Wizards and New Orleans Pelicans organized separate team workouts. These are both teams trying to make the next step in their evolution — the Wizards to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pelicans up into the middle of the pack in a crowded West — and their stars are taking it upon themselves to get everyone on the same page.

John Wall helped set up the Wizards’ one, which started today (Sunday), and spoke to CSNWashington.com about it.

Speaking with CSNwashington.com Saturday, Wall revealed he organized a mini-camp for his teammates that begins Sunday in Los Angeles. He expects the group together through Wednesday.

“All the guys are going to come out,” Wall stated.

His organizational skills don’t stop there. The two-time All-Star also said he’s encouraging players to arrive “two weeks early” for the team’s official training camp next month.

Under the guidelines of the CBA, the coaches can’t run or be involved in these workouts, although in the Pelicans’ case Alvin Gentry will be in town and around.

Anthony Davis, fresh out of Team USA mini-camp in Las Vegas (as was Wall) helped set up the one for Pelicans, which begins Monday, he told the New Orleans Advocate.

Under the guidance of Anthony Davis and Quincy Pondexter, 10 Pelicans gathered in Los Angeles for voluntary workouts starting Monday, with the hopes of maximizing the team’s cohesion while cutting the learning curve that implementing a new coaching system typically entails.

“Quincy and I had been talking about getting the team together and just reunite for a few days,” Davis said. “We made some calls, and a lot of guys jumped on board. It’ll be great to get back in the gym with the guys and get some work in before training camp rolls around in a few weeks.”

Do these workouts mean a few more wins for these teams next season? Probably not. But teams that are going to make a leap are going to be cohesive, in shape, and ready to roll when the season arrives. Throw in a little team bonding and it’s a good way for teams to spend a bit of August.

Cavaliers sign Jared Cunningham to training camp contract

Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Clippers
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When last we saw Jared Cunningham, he was riding the bench for the Los Angeles Clippers last season — he played just 89 minutes as a reserve guard — until in January they traded him in a salary dump to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers promptly waived him.

Now Cunningham is going to get a chance to make the roster of the team that drafted him No. 24 overall back in 2012 (then quickly traded him to Dallas), the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Shams Charania of Real GM had the news.

This is a non-guaranteed training camp deal, Cunningham is going to have to earn his way onto the roster.

Which is not going to be easy. He’s an undersized shooting guard who doesn’t shoot well, a career 36.4 percent shooter overall and 30 percent from three (he doesn’t have the handles to run the point or be a playmaker at the NBA level, either). He came into the league raw, a guy who had been able to get by on his athleticism but now was going to have to sharpen his skills, and that has not happened.

The Cavaliers have open roster spots, but they are deep at guard: Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert, Mo Williams, Matthew Dellavedova, James Jones, and they could re-sign J.R. Smith still. It seems unlikely Cunningham will get into that mix, but he’ll get his shot.

Former No. 5 pick Nikoloz Tskitishvili wants an NBA comeback

Ioannis Bourousis (R) and Antonios Fotsi
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When you talk about skilled European big men who were drafted high then flamed out in the NBA, Nikoloz Tskitishvili is right near the top of the list. The No. 5 pick of the Denver Nuggets in 2002 and seen as a 7-foot project, but one that never panned out. He could never catch up with the speed and athleticism of the NBA game. Injuries slowed him. His skill never translated — he shot 30.4 percent overall for his career, 23 percent from three. In four years he was out of the NBA.

Now he wants another chance.

Speaking to the Denver Post, Tskitishvili talked about wanting another chance in the NBA.

“I just turned 32, but I’m better,” he said. “I’m better at this age. I got stronger. I’ve got confidence. I got smarter….

“I’m 100 times better than I was,” he said. “It’s just very difficult for teams to understand that, because they are looking at the number, the age. If you ask me, this is the best shape I’ve ever been in and the best I’ve been playing in my career.”

 

 

Tskitishvili is honest in his assessment of himself back in the day — he wasn’t physically or mentally ready for the NBA. He wishes he had done what many Europeans drafted do and stay a couple more seasons overseas to polish their skills

“You can blame me or you can find some reasons to blame,” he said. “When they draft you as a No. 5 pick, really I shouldn’t have taken it, and stayed in Europe a couple more years. But you can’t say no to the No. 5 pick. You might never come to the NBA.”

 

He played last season for Champville of the Lebanese Basketball League. That is a long way from the NBA. Never say never, but if an NBA team is going to take on a big to play limited minutes, they more likely take on a young player who could be with them longer at a lower price, plus likely be a better trade asset.

But could he be worth a camp invite?

 

John Wall doesn’t expect to make Team USA roster for Rio Olympics

USA Basketball Men's National Team Training Camp
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John Wall was just at the Team USA mini-camp in Las Vegas. He is a top-five point guard in the NBA. He has developed into the point guard the Wizards hoped they would get when they selected him No. 1 in 2010.

But don’t expect to see him on the USA Basketball roster for the Rio Olympics next summer.

That’s not just my opinion — it’s what Wall himself told Ben Standig of CSNWashington.com.

“I’ll be out of the picture,” said Wall through a laugh and without any noticeable trace of resentment….

“I’m just being honest,” Wall continued. “Chris Paul has already won one (Olympic gold medal). Steph Curry had an amazing last year and just won the World Cup. Kyrie just won the World Cup. Russell will probably be on the team. They’ll use him as a two-guard. So, I probably won’t make it.”

It’s simply a numbers game.

The USA usually takes four or five guards, three of them point guards (James Harden and Klay Thompson likely are at the two guard spots, in my opinion). Stephen Curry is a lock. If Chris Paul wants to go, he is a lock. And then it comes down to the athletic freak and former Olympian that is Russell Westbrook (I think he makes the team), but if not him then it’s Kyrie Irving, who played for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke and played well for Team USA last summer at the World Cup. Wall said he thinks Irving makes it.

If everyone’s healthy, Wall just misses the cut. Team USA needs three point guards and he’s fifth. Point guard is a ridiculously deep position for Team USA, which is a nice luxury to have, but some very good players just miss the cut.